Igor Stimac says he will resign if India don't qualify for FIFA World Cup qualifiers third round

India's Croatian coach Igor Stimac looks on during the Qatar 2023 AFC Asian Cup Group B football match between Syria and India at Al-Bayt Stadium in al-Khor, north of Doha, on January 23, 2024. 

India men’s football team manager Igor Stimac said he will resign from the position if they fail to reach the third round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

Even before the Asian Cup got underway in January , Stimac had prioritised qualification to the third round which booked a direct entry into the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.

“If I don’t take India to the third round I will leave, with my pride, with my honour on everything that was done here in the five years of work. I will leave my position to someone else,” Stimac said on Monday, on the eve of India’s home leg fixture against Afghanistan in Guwahati.

India can advance to the third round but the task has become tougher following last week’s stalemate in the away leg against Afghanistan in Saudi Arabia, from which they gained only a point.

The Blue Tigers are second in the group with four points from three games, one ahead of Kuwait, who are on three points from as many matches. India have never reached the third round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Stimac, who has been manager of the Indian team since 2019, received a contract extension last year which will keep him in charge until June 2026.

After last week’s contest, Stimac said he was not surprised by Afghanistan’s good show considering several of their players ply their trade in Europe. The Croatian boss once again asked for longer preparatory camps for the national team ahead of big tournaments.

“In my four years there were three long camps that we had. One was five years ago right here prior to games against Oman and Qatar, you remember how well the team played that time.

“Second was for the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in Kolkata, the team was flying – 3 games, 3 wins, 8-1 goal difference. Third long camp was last year prior to the tournaments that we played brilliantly, could see the intensity and everyone knew what they had to do.”

He also expressed concern over lack of Indian strikers in the ISL, saying most players in that position were foreigners.

“Scoring problem has been haunting us for five years, even before I came here the scoring problem was haunting us. I have mentioned that foreign players are occupying scoring positions and that is hurting us.

“It is not easy for them as most of them are not playing their positions at the club this season, apart from Sunil.”

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